A twist on tradition
Local and foraged produce can offer unique, sumptuosuly satisfying additions to many favourite winter recipes, says Nikki Bawn.
I don’t know about you but despite February being the shortest month, the cold, dark days seem to last forever as we push through the final grip of winter. Running off to hibernate might seem like a sensible option but good food can make things a lot more bearable and help keep winter blues at bay.
Surprisingly, there’s still an array of seasonal produce and foraged food to find, and, with a little imagination, you can use them to supercharge your winter dishes with goodness and exciting flavours.
Most of us have the usual line-up of casseroles, soups and stews in mind for our winter grub – but it doesn’t have to be same old, same old. For a flavour-packed, pick-me-up you can’t beat pine needles. Yes, I said pine needles!
Apart from things like yew which is poisonous, most pines are edible and bring a delightful fragrance to meat, fish and even tea. Free and plentiful – these little evergreen lovelies are packed full of vitamin C and, believe it or not, have five times the concentration found in lemons!
Roasting game or red meat on a bed of pine needles with vegetables and a touch of garlic is jaw-droppingly delicious and simple to make. Or, poach your favourite fish with a handful for a low fat, vitamin and omega-packed platter.
Another loved foraged find is chickweed. It’s one of our native overwintering plants and was a top choice for Victorian diners. You can spot it almost anywhere through the year, and unless your garden is surgically manicured, you should be able to gather enough of this earthy, crisp ‘weed’ to make salads, garnishes or a side dish. Apparently, it’s great for the skin and respiratory system too – what’s not to like?
Along with freely available foraged food, cabbage, beetroot, fennel, celeriac, sweet potato, kale, squash and even good old rhubarb are in season. With a few tweaks to traditional cooking methods and some little additions, this lovely lot will put excitement and flavour back on most menus.
I love roasting veg in a little olive oil with herbs and seasoning, or in raw unprocessed sweetness like honey or maple with a little salt. Great as a main or a side, roast veg is gorgeous – and leftovers (if you have any that is) can be whizzed up with stock or cream to make delicious soup.
For me, though, rhubarb is the real unsung food hero. Its clichéd role in crumbles and pies hides the amazing part it can play in savoury dishes. Slowly simmer it with star anise, apple juice and sugar to create a versatile syrup which can be added to roast dishes and even cocktails. You can also chop it finely, and steep it in red wine vinegar with onions, chillies and mustard seeds for a crowd pleasing, zingy salsa. I love fillet of Lincolnshire Russet beef with rhubarb and red wine. Like all my Boggle Lane creations this makes the most of local, seasonal and foraged produce and it’s sumptuously satisfying.
The first two months of the year can be the bleakest, but I promise the sunshine will return and the abundance of spring will be here before we know it. Until then why not celebrate the bounty of winter and have a go at creating your own twists on traditions.
RHUBARB AND RED WINE WITH RUSSET BEEF
You will need:
1kg of fillet of beef (Lincolnshire Russet is fab for this recipe) – serves 4
6 sticks of rhubarb
1 tbsp sugar
¼ bottle of good red wine (Rioja or Chianti work well)
2 heaped tsp horseradish sauce (wild horseradish is amazing for making your own, but shop bought will be just fine too)
2 garlic cloves
1 large white onion
Salt and pepper
• Preheat your oven to 210˚C.
• Massage a little olive oil all over the beef and sprinkle all sides liberally with lots of black pepper.
• Heat a heavy based pan until it gets to a ‘sizzle’ level then place your joint in the pan and turn to brown on all sides – this should take no more than 10 minutes. You are looking to seal the meat rather than cook it at this stage.
• Don’t wash the pan, you’ll need it again and you don’t want to lose all the meat juices!
• Put the meat to one side to rest.
• Chop the rhubarb and onion into bitesize pieces and place on the bottom of a roasting dish along with the garlic, a little oil and plenty of salt and pepper.
• Place your browned meat on top of the chopped rhubarb and onion and put it in the centre of the oven.
• After around 20 min check the meat – depending on your taste (and your oven), rare should take around 20 min, medium-rare around 30 min and well done between 45 and 55 min. This is a rough guide, so just keep an eye on things and all will be well.
• Remove the meat, once cooked, from the roasting dish and place on a warm plate, cover in foil and leave to rest (this will help make sure the meat is tender).
• The rhubarb, onion and garlic should now be caramelised and softened – place them in the heavy based pan that you browned the meat in.
• Turn up the heat, add the red wine and bubble the contents until the smell of alcohol has evaporated. Turn the heat down, add the horseradish and sugar and simmer for a further 5 min – stirring continuously.
• You can strain or blend the sauce before pouring over the meat, or place as it is, on each plate to add texture and colour.
Serve with candle-light, dark leafy greens, home baked bread or salad – oh yes, and a glass of that ruby red wine to make a winter evening cosy and delicious. Enjoy!
For more information visit: www.bogglelane.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org